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Preventing Bleeding During Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy can make your blood less able to clot. This happens because the treatment reduces the number of platelets (clotting agents) in your blood. As a result, your risk of bruising and bleeding increases. To help prevent problem bleeding, use the tips on this handout.

Healthcare provider taking blood sample from woman's arm.

Know What to Expect

Some types of chemotherapy cause more bleeding problems than others. Often the risk of bleeding increases over the course of treatment. In any case, your risk is greatest during the nadir (the period in each treatment cycle when your platelet count is lowest). Talk with your doctor or nurse about your nadir period. Then take extra precautions to prevent bleeding at that time.

Avoid Bleeding and Bruising

  • Use a soft toothbrush. Do not floss your teeth or use a Water-Pik.

  • Talk to your dentist about postponing teeth cleanings or dental work.

  • Shave with an electric razor, not a straight razor.

  • Ask your doctor which medications you should stop taking. Some, such as aspirin, make it harder for blood to clot.

  • Eat a high-fiber diet to avoid constipation.

  • Do not play contact sports or do activities likely to cause bruising.

  • Do not use tampons or suppositories.

  • Be extra careful during your nadir. Depending on your platelet count, you may be told to stop having intercourse at this time.

Call Your Doctor

Contact your doctor right away if you have:

  • Blood in your urine or stool

  • Easy bruising or small red spots under your skin

  • Bleeding that won’t stop (such as from gums or nose)

  • Menstrual flow that is heavy or lasts longer than normal

  • Vomiting, vision changes, frequent headaches

Online Medical Reviewer: Fincannon, Joy, RN, MN
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Last Review Date: 2/3/2014
© 2000-2014 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.